out of Five
Running time: 108
From the moment it went into production, Terminator 3 sounded like it was going to be unspeakably awful.
Without James Cameron involved and with an aging, desperate-for-a-hit star who seemed, frankly, to be getting too old for this sort of thing, not to mention a lingering fear that it would just be an ugly mess of CGI, the odds were stacked against it. So it comes as something of a surprise that the film is actually, an enormous amount of fun.
Decade After Judgement Day…
The action takes place a decade after the events of T2. John Connor (now played by Nick Stahl, from In The Bedroom), having prevented Judgement Day in the last film, now lives “off the grid”, a fancy way of saying he’s homeless, jobless and something of a tramp.
However, since they can’t find Connor, those pesky Future Robots decide that they’ll kill all his future lieutenants instead (some of whom apparently work at drive-thru burger joints) and send a powerful new female Terminator (a Terminatrix, if you will), the T-X (played by Kristanna Loken), to do the job.
One of those future lieutenants is Katherine Brewster (Claire
Danes), who meets Connor when he tries to steal drugs, moments before the T-X shows up and tries to kill her. Luckily, the Future Lieutenants have seen fit to send back the original Terminator (Schwarzy) to help them out…
Director Jonathan Mostow gained a reputation as a decent action director with his two previous films (historical travesty submarine actioner U-571 and Kurt Russell suspense thriller Breakdown) and he doesn’t disappoint on that score here.
The central set-piece involves a freeway chase with a huge crane in which a LOT of stuff gets smashed up, and it’s nothing short of breath-taking. The CGI work is also impressive, in that there’s never a moment when you actually notice it or think it looks ‘fake’.
John Connor No Longer Smartarse Shock
The bigger surprise is that Mostow also turns out to be an excellent
director of actors and he has a much better sense of humour than Cameron, too. Stahl is superb – his Connor has lost the irritating smartarse streak that Edward Furlong had and his character is now plagued with self-doubt about whether he can be the leader that the future needs. Danes is equally good and is believable in her transition from scared and bewildered to resourceful Future Heroine.
One of the most refreshing things about Terminator 3 is the amount of work that has obviously gone into the script. It combines the relentless pace of a ‘Robots SMASH’-type action movie with a well thought out sci-fi time travel conundrum story that recalls certain episodes of The Twilight Zone.
On top of that, it even has certain rom-com elements that work really well – two characters who are destined to get together but don’t get along, the female lead’s fiancé that has to be ‘removed’, lots of gags and one-liners, Killer Robots, etc.
Arnie Back To His Emotionless Best
As for Arnold, he’s extremely good. Thankfully, there’s none of the ‘robots learning to love’ rubbish that marred Terminator 2. He’s much more ‘robotic’ in this film and, oddly, he emerges as a much more likeable character because of it. They have also subtly tweaked the character to allow better jokes - particularly the "Freud sub-routine" that enabled the line "Your levity is good. It will stop you thinking about death."
Kristanna Loken is superb, though she does bear a striking resemblance to Mel from EastEnders. There’s no real reason for a Terminatrix, but it works brilliantly and she’s genuinely scary – her fight with Arnold in a corporate toilet is a definite highlight.
In short, Terminator 3 is the perfect summer blockbuster – well-acted, intelligent, thrilling and with a healthy smattering of good gags. Highly recommended.